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Safety measures likely for Cloverdale crosswalk


A Cloverdale crosswalk where two boys were seriously injured on Halloween and a woman was killed last summer is likely to get some major safety improvements.

The city is moving to install pedestrian-activated pulsating lights in the pavement, as well as flashing warning signs, following a community outcry to fix the darkened crossing on South Cloverdale Boulevard.

Two days after the City Council rejected putting in a four-way stop there, a subcommittee of two council members and other officials on Wednesday instead recommended the flashing amber light system.

The estimated $55,000 cost for the lighted crosswalk from LightGuard Systems Inc. of Santa Rosa would be paid out of the city's road repavement fund, and justified as an urgency safety measure.

The City Council still needs to approve the recommendation. But City Manager Paul Cayler said the system at Cloverdale Boulevard and Healdsburg Avenue could be installed three to four weeks after the council acts, using the same contractor currently installing sidewalks in the area under the Safe Routes to School program.

That's not a moment too soon for those who have clamored for something to be done about the crosswalk, which has seen five accidents in the past year involving pedestrians or bicyclists struck by moving vehicles.

"I'm very pleased to hear that, and I'm pretty sure the whole community will be pleased to see something done about that before another person is killed, or another person is injured," said Gloria Ponce, daughter of Maria Ponce, the 68-year old Cloverdale woman killed in the crosswalk in July.

Guadalupe Castro Barragan, 83, the driver who struck her, is facing vehicular manslaughter charges. Police said he failed to yield to a pedestrian and was not wearing corrective lenses.

Shortly after the nighttime collision, members of Maria Ponce's large family, consisting of nine adult children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, beseeched the City Council to improve the crosswalk.

They were back again this week in even greater force at the City Council meeting after two teenage boys were struck in the same crosswalk on Halloween night.

Enrique Andrade, 12, who suffered a broken jaw, concussion and had both legs badly broken, is still recuperating at Oakland Children's Hospital.

His cousin Baldemar Torres, 13, broke a shoulder and sustained other injuries.

<CW-12>The 75-year-old driver said he didn't see the youths, who were more than halfway across the street when they were hit.</CW>

The Ponce family was frustrated that nothing was done to the crosswalk after their matriarch's death.

Many of those who showed up at this week's council meeting were upset when a majority of the council opposed installing four-way stop signs at the crosswalk to make it safer, as recommended by Police Chief Mark Tuma and traffic consultants.

But council members said they were concerned a four-way stop would not be effective, because some motorists would unwittingly drive through it, providing a false sense of security to pedestrians.

A crosswalk with 16 imbedded flashing lights on the other hand "will help tremendously in making that a safer location," said City Councilman Bob Cox.

"It's the logical solution," said City Councilwoman Mary Ann Brigham.

Both were on the quickly formed ad hoc committee that on Wednesday recommended the flashing crosswalk system along with another overhead street light to further illuminate the east side of the crosswalk.

"It's wicked dark. It's pitch black," Jackie Rose, a seventh grade teacher at nearby Washington School, said of the nighttime lighting at the crosswalk where her students Enrique and Baldemar were struck.

She was also pleased by the tentative action to improve the crosswalk.

"I feel very encouraged. I think it's the best we can do in a small town with limited resources, to make that corner as safe as we can," she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.